Rib Cookoffs, a Part of Summer Born Right Here in Cleveland

Rib burnoffs are a rite of summer, and got their start here in Cleveland

Memorial Day weekend was officially the start of summer, even though the calendar says its a few weeks away.

With it also comes a favorite tradition, rib burnoffs.

Contrary to many myths, the origins of the mouth-watering events are not from the south, but none other than northeast Ohio – downtown Cleveland to be exact.

"What you see right here now, In the middle '80s, it started on Mall C," rib master Dave Amstutz of Jack-on-Bone said while serving up his award-winning meals at the 2012 Great American Rib Cookoff over Memorial Day weekend. "And they have exploded across the country. There are other shows that do just prize money, but these are how guys make a living off it, and its been successful everywhere."

Amstutz wasn't one of the originals at the show, but Dennis Carrino, who owned the then-popular Mama Mia's restaurant and pizza on York and Pleasant Valley roads in Parma, was. Carrino had an article published about his ribs at Mama Mia's in 1982, and Gary Jacob, who brought in teams from all over the world for the National Rib Burnoff, contacted him.

"This whole idea was Gary Jacob's idea about bringing in rib restaurants from all over the United States," Carrino said. "Everybody in Cleveland at that time, no matter what restaurant you had, had ribs. It was just a mainstay at the time why I don't know why I wouldn't say ours were that great, but we were rated A plus and we were asked if we wanted to come down and do this thing and I said 'yeah, why not.'"

Carrino said that he never thought of doing it as a career, but after two years of doing it in Cleveland, a couple of the cookers came to him, and one from Australia helped him create a new sauce at his restaurant. He's won 500 national titles since that time.

"I may retire from this one day when I am 90," he said with a laugh.

Jacob's idea, which originally was done to boost the Cleveland economy, now stems across all 50 states and surprisingly Canada, with the Mondial du Grill festival in Quebec being one of the largest there.

"There are some very big shows in the Canadian area now," Amstutz, who first started in 1994 said. "They really are into the shows in Canada."

Although the Great American Rib Cookoff is done, it is just the beginning of them in northeast Ohio. From the Rib and Rock at Parmtown Mall on June 7 to the Strongsville City Club rib burnoff on June 24, and the Hall of Fame Enshrinement Rib Burnoff the beginning of August, there is an event nearly every weekend.


What exactly makes a championship tasting rib? Find out as Amstutz, Carrino along with Solomon Williams of Carolina King give us some tricks of the trade, without telling their secrets of course.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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